Our regular column from Andy Harmer, senior vice-president membership and director CLIA UK & Ireland.
As we sail into 2019, cruise lines are continuing to invest heavily in building new ships, refurbishing existing ones and creating new onboard and ashore experiences. This investment and innovation enhances the guests’ experience while ensuring that the cruise industry stays modern, up-to-date and exciting.
This investment within the industry is undoubtably paying off – the number of UK travellers taking to seas has almost doubled over the past decade, meaning that more Brits are cruising than ever before.
Although figures on the total number of Brits and Irish who took to the seas in 2018 won’t be released until April, we are quietly confident that the number is on track to reach the two million mark – two years ahead of target. Figures from Q3 in 2018 show that volume in the third quarter was up 3.2 per cent year-on-year, from 556,000 to 573,000.
And with 24 new cruise ships entering the market this year, and plenty of existing ships to be renovated and refurbished to a standard that rivals even the finest land-based hotels, there is even more to get excited about for 2019.
The first ship set to be christened this year is MSC Bellissima, a Meraviglia-class ship, launching in Southampton this March. Featuring a 96m central promenade, Galleria Bellissima will be filled with boutiques, restaurants and tranquil spots, offering a completely new onboard experience. MSC Bellissima will be followed by the launch of MSC Grandiosa towards the end of the year, which will be MSC Cruises’ largest ship and will host two new and exclusive shows from Cirque du Soleil.
The long-awaited third ship from Saga Cruises, Spirit of Discovery, is set to launch in July. The 900-guest ship will feature a special nightclub created by musician Jools Holland, a luxury spa and Saga’s first theatre, The Playhouse.
Meanwhile, Princess Cruises’ Sky Princess, launching this October, will have two Sky Suites, featuring the largest balconies ever offered by the line to provide an uninterrupted 270-degree view. These suites will accommodate up to five guests and the large balconies will include luxury balcony furniture, a large day bed, loungers, a mini fridge and TV on a private patio.
We can also look forward to welcoming Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship, Norwegian Encore, in October. The 3,998-guest ship will boast the biggest race course at sea – sprawling over two decks – and a giant showroom housing the award-winning production show, Kinky Boots.
And as luxury expedition cruising continues to grow in popularity, 10 new expedition ships will enter the market this year, including the long-awaited Scenic Eclipse – said to be the world’s first discovery yacht and two ships from French luxury line Ponant.
It’s safe to say that there is never a dull moment in cruise, and with so much to look forward to for this year and far beyond, there has truly never been a better time to choose cruise.
Whether you’re looking for a cultural holiday or relaxing break, find your perfect cruise with our Cruise Finder.